Frequently asked questions about Thailand, Laos and the tour.
Q. How do I apply for a Thai visa?
30-day visas are issued upon arrival if you are landing by air. There is no need to apply in advance for a visa.
Q. How do I apply for a Laos visa?
A. 30-day visas can be purchased upon arrival in Laos. You can alternately apply for it prior to leaving home. Check here for instructions on acquiring your Laotian visa.
Q. Will bottled water be readily available?
A. Yes it will. However, we strongly urge our tour participants to carry their own reusable water bottle and bring a water purifier, such as a SteriPen, so as to cut down on the number of plastic water bottles that get thrown out daily.
Q. What is the WanderTours Giving Program?
A. This is a program we have developed for all of our international tours, where a portion of your tour cost goes towards supporting a project or non-profit organization in the country where the tour is taking place. Read our blog post on this topic.
Q. I need some suggestions of gifts to bring. What might I bring that they don’t have there? How many gifts should I bring?
A. We would suggest something from your region. Something that is popular like a food item or something representative of where you live (a coffee mug with the Space Needle on it, for example). You will have three different guides on this tour – one in Bangkok, one in Northern Thailand and one in Laos. A small gift for each would be appropriate.
Q. If there are homestays on our tour, are we going to be split up so we stay in different homes?
A. Depending on the size of the group, you may be staying in different homes for the homestay.
Q. I know I should pack light with perhaps just a carry-on but I can’t because of other travel commitments.
A. While you will be more comfortable moving around with fewer bags, you likely won’t be the only one with more than a carry-on bag.
Q. What is the FREE checked baggage allowance on Bangkok Airways flights? On Lao Airways?
A. Bangkok Airways allows you to check up to 20 kilos (44 pounds) for free. Excess baggage rates can be found here. Bangkok Airways allows one carry on piece with a maximum weight of 5 kilos (11 pounds). The FREE baggage allowance on Lao Airways is also 20 kilos (44 pounds). One piece of carry-on, not to exceed 7 kilos (15 pounds) plus one personal item such as a purse are also allowed.
Q. I’m thinking of booking an early evening flight home from Bangkok on the last day of the tour. Will that work?
A. On the last day of the tour, our flight from Laos to Bangkok may not arrive until mid to late afternoon. We recommend that you book your international flight home for very late that night or that you consider staying in Bangkok for one night in case flights out of Laos are delayed.
Q. Do I need to worry about mosquitoes and/or malaria in SE Asia?
A. Please check with your doctor on advice about malaria prophylaxes. Here’s an excellent article on TravelFish about malaria in SE Asia – it’s a good place to start your research.
Q. Do I need inoculations when I travel to SE Asia?
A. Please check with your doctor or a travel medical clinic on what shots you might need. Requirements are constantly changing and they are the experts on what’s required.
Q. Do you spray down your clothes with some insecticide? Do you think it is necessary for the areas we will be going to?
A. You will likely encounter mosquitoes throughout the trip. To avoid them, you wear clothes with permethrin, or wear some sort of mosquito repellent.
Q. Shall I bring a bathing suit?
A. Some of the hotels will have pools. It will be quite warm in both Thailand and Laos and you might have some time to sit poolside.
Q. How should I dress based on the weather for the spring?
A. It will likely be quite warm throughout your trip. We recommend a skirt, capris, shorts or lightweight pants and short sleeved shirts. Bring a light jacket in case we have cooler evenings in the mountains of Northern Thailand.
Q. Are short skirts (slightly above the knee) acceptable in the temples? How about calf-length skirts? Just pants?
A. You must have either a long skirt or long pants to enter a temple. Even people wearing capris sometimes get turned away. Also, no tank tops. You must have your shoulders covered.
Q. Will the hotels have a laundry service so that I can pack light?
A. Hotels will definitely have laundry service at a reasonable rate. You’ll want to consider having it done at one of the hotels where the group is staying for more than one night. You might rinse your clothes out in the evening and let them dry out overnight. For this, you’ll need clothes made from quick drying material.
Q. Do I need to learn any Thai or Lao?
A. It isn’t necessary as many people speak English but it might be fun for you to learn a bit of the language(s) in advance. Being able to say “hello,” “goodbye,” “thank you” and “excuse me” will go a long way. Lonely Planet has excellent phrasebooks for Thai and Lao to get you started.
Q. Can I use my cell phone in SE Asia?
A. It depends. First, your cell phone must have GSM technology in order to tap into the local network. If you plan on bringing the phone that you use on a daily basis at home, CHECK WITH YOUR PROVIDER to determine what they will charge for calls and texts – both outgoing and incoming – and for calls within SE Asia and for international calls. These calls can be exorbitantly priced per minute.
Consider carrying an old phone that is “unlocked” – one that you’re currently not using and doesn’t have a call plan attached to it. Remember that it has to have GSM technology in order to tap into the local network. When you arrive in-country, you can purchase a SIM card for that phone and then be able to tap into the local network. Domestic and international calls will likely be far cheaper than using your own phone on your current plan. When you add the new SIM card, this phone will be assigned a phone number that you can then share with your family at home and they can call you directly (sometimes you’re not charged for incoming calls).
Here’s a blog post about cell phone usage abroad.
The above also applies to iPads with 3G. If you are under contract to an internet provider at home you will probably not be able to change out the SIM card in your iPad. The iPad must be “unlocked” in order to use the 3G capabilities without paying huge roaming fees. Please check with your provider before leaving home. You might also consider signing up for Skype and putting money on your account so that you can call home using this technology.
Q. What do you use to write and journal while you’re traveling abroad?
A. A journal is great because you don’t have to plug it in. But you might consider carrying a small netbook or iPad with a keyboard.
Q. Are travelers checks viable in Thailand and Laos? Are ATM’s available? Do vendors usually take credit cards or do small vendors not have the equipment?
A. Travelers checks can be used at the airport and in banks and you might be able to find shops that will accept these. However, ATM’s are prevalent and that is a great way to access local currency.
We suggest you change a small amount of cash at the airport upon arrival and then hit an ATM when you get into the first city in which you arrive. Carry enough cash with you in case you can’t access your bank account with a debit or credit card. It depends on your spending habits as to how much money you might bring with you.
Q. How much in US dollars might you recommend bringing? What is the preferred method(s) of getting local currency?
A. Remember that most everything will be covered during your time in SE Asia but there are some times when you are on your own for meals and definitely for souvenirs and tips. If you want soft drinks or alcohol, those are not included in the tour cost. There are a wide range of souvenirs to purchase throughout both Thailand and Laos and much of these will be low to moderately priced. You might be one to only spend $50 on souvenirs but you might end up spending hundreds.
Q. How much should we be prepared to bring extra for tipping?
A. We’ve recently changed our policy on tipping for local guides and drivers and will be handling this on our end. Having said that, if you feel like they’ve done an exceptional job, please feel to tip on your own if you’re so moved. If you are escorted by a WanderTours guide (other than Beth – no tips required for her), then plan on tipping her $5-10/day.
Q. If I bring US dollars, are they fussy about them being perfect?
A. It’s a good idea to have newer/crisper bills as sometimes the money changers won’t take ones that aren’t in perfect condition.
Q. I have a moneybelt that goes under my pants or skirt in which I carry my passport. Do you recommend getting a case-hardened steel chained passport holder?
A. That sounds like overkill and a bit uncomfortable! Try a money pouch that you can discreetly tuck underneath your clothes.
Q. Would you recommend taking a rain coat? Something more than one of those flimsy “emergency” ponchos?
A. We recommend that you have a light jacket or rain jacket in case you do run into a downpour. Alternately, consider bringing your own umbrella or purchasing one upon arrival.
Q. Should we bring our own toilet paper? Do they have the “squatty potties” of China fame?
A. No need to bring toilet paper as it will be available at all hotels. All toilets (except for maybe when you’re out walking in small villages) are western style.
Q. Can I bring my laptop?
A. Of course, you will have power at all of the hotels. WiFi is available at many hotels and also in cafes.
Q. What sort of power adaptor do I need?
A. In both Thailand and Laos, it’s not uncommon for outlets to be the same that you use in the US (type a). And when it’s not type a, it’s often type c (pictured right). We recommend you bring an adaptor or two just in case.
Q. Are there hair dryers at the hotels?
A. Sometimes but don’t count on it. As mentioned above, there will be power at all hotels. Just remember that no one’s going to be looking their finest, so if you don’t have to have the hair dryer, consider leaving it at home 🙂
Q. Do I need any dressy clothes?
Q. I have been researching new luggage and took to heart your message of going LIGHT. Is it safe to assume we are going to be responsible for moving our luggage around every day, and also that we may be needing to pick it up more than wheel it, due to fairly uneven and unpaved terrain?
A. You’ll have very little interaction with your luggage other than moving it from the van to your room and usually there’s hotel staff to help with that. Generally there’s a sidewalk and you can roll it but sometimes it might be a dirt track. You might consider a small rolly bag that is carry-on size (under 22″).
Q. Do you recommend taking a drivers license with you on trips where you aren’t planning on driving? Or just rely on your passport, or get an International Drivers License as another form of ID?
A. You definitely won’t need your drivers license but if you feel more comfortable carrying it, by all means, do. Your passport is really the most important ID you’ll need.
Q. Will you be sending an updated itinerary with our overnight accommodations so we can leave it with folks at home?
A. You’ll receive the hotel information one or two weeks before departure along with emergency contact information.
Q. Do I need insurance for this tour?
A. Although we don’t require trip insurance, we definitely think it’s a great idea – not just for unexpected cancellations, but also for health issues and medical evacuation while you’re abroad.We highly recommend evacuation insurance for this and all international WanderTours. We recommend Insure My Trip. They have a wide range of options, good customer service, an easy to navigate website and they offer numerous affordable options including travel, medical and evacuation insurance.
Q. Will I receive a refund if I have to cancel my participation in the tour?
A. Whether or not you receive a partial refund depends on how far in advance of the tour you cancel. Our refund policy is covered in our Booking Terms and Conditions and is also outlined on the Registration form that you’ll receive within 24 hours of booking. Refunds will be sent by check within two weeks of our receiving written notification of your cancellation (email notification is fine). If Beth is traveling when you cancel, it may take longer than two weeks to get your refund check out to you. She’ll mail it as soon as she can upon returning to the U.S.!
Q. Will we have internet access?
A. There are many places where you will have access to email and the internet. Hotels usually have computers in the lobby and there are internet cafes in all the major cities with reasonable connections. Certainly you’ll be able to regularly check in with family but it won’t be like home. Some hotels and internet cafes also have WiFi.
Q. What’s the emergency contact info that I can give my family?
A. You will be given a cell phone number for someone in-country from our local tour operator as well as a list of hotels. All of this will be provide shortly before your departure.